Simon Reeve’s six-episode series titled Indian Ocean delivers a kaleidoscopic view of the world’s third largest body of water, the one least studied by scientists. Starting in South Africa and ending in Australia, passing through rocky cliffs in Oman and the endless beaches of Orissa, each episode hides, disguised in the form of a travelogue, a study in the complexity and depth of our impact on the planet. The documentaries are recurrently environmental, but more by force than by choice. As Mr. Reeve describes the arch taking him East we are witnesses to our dependance on the seas for food, transportation, industry or leisure and we listen to local fishermen and concerned activists repeating a sad litany about the dwindling fisheries and devastating pollution. But none of the hour long episodes is intended to be a bummer nor does it try to sound preaching or condescending. Each one depicts the fantastic ethnic and social diversity of the region while the viewer constantly marvels and finds dream material with the numerous gorgeous postcards from tropical paradise and examples of the exhilarating vibrancy of nature.
Mr. Reeve walks like a real traveler, a man in the quest for beauty, but one that understands that discovery and knowledge, even when ugly and sad, are at the epicenter of any journey. Under those premises it does not feel strained to enjoy the luxurious atmosphere of an exclusive resort or a meal in a sub-aquatic restaurant in the Maldives to be taken in the following sequence through the burning, toxic dumpsters behind the curtain of the resorts that makes such a five star fantasy of Shangri-La possible. We get to see the baobab trees and the hopping lemurs of Madagascar, but the fake veil of film-making is for once dropped and one worriedly learns these are the exact same charming specimens that appear in every single nature documentary now that 90% of the island has been deforested. We are taught about the future of seaweed farming and sustainable fishing, see both the last pristine coral reefs and the prevailing coral cemeteries, hear about the deadly Somali pirates and later visit two of them in a small prison to realize their faces are thin and sad; reality is much more complex and ambiguous than we would all want.
Population growth and sustainability, the unquestionable power of progress, Chinese and Indian dominance in the region, the hidden price to our love for shrimp, global desire for luxury and dependance on world trade, the dirty fingers of the mining industry (hated but indispensable to modern life), the soup that will kill all sharks, the savage beauty of the Australian Kimberley region, a beach cemetery in Bangladesh where the mighty cargo boats of the world go to die, the hardship of fishing in an empty sea or colorful Indian celebrations in the rain, all of this makes Indian Ocean. That is why I think you should watch it, because it is beautiful, haunting and kaleidoscopic. HERE you will find how to do that.